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MCPON, SMMC: Military Childcare is a Critical Readiness Issue

Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith speak to an audience at the Maritime Security Dialogue hosted by USNI at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Navy photo.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Navy and Marine Corps’ top non-commissioned officers say finding affordable childcare is critical to personnel retention.

Readiness and lethality are the Navy’s and Marine Corps’ primary concerns, but when sailors and Marines worry about finding safe and affordable childcare options, the distraction can become critical, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Russell Smith said on Thursday.

Smith and his Marine counterpart, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps (SMMC) Ronald Green, spoke about challenges facing enlisted personnel during the U.S. Naval Institute-hosted Maritime Security Dialogue at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“A lot of people have tried to bin this and call it a woman’s issues. It’s not,” Smith said. “We have single fathers, single mothers, dual-income, dual-working couples. It’s a family issue.”

Green agreed with Smith, adding that the demographics of the service have changed even in the time since they joined the Marine Corps and Navy.

“Childcare is a challenge in a service where 49, 50 percent [of personnel] are married; far more than when the MCPON and I came in in the ’80s,” Green said.

The Navy and Marine Corps leadership understand childcare can be a contributing reason why individuals choose to leave the service. The Navy Installations Command is working to develop several options for families, Smith said. However, providing quality childcare is expensive, especially when trying to provide care in remote locations or densely populated regions.

“In order to keep 24-hour seven [days-a-week] flight line operations working in a place like [Naval Air Station] Lemoore, Calif., I have to figure out how to provide childcare that’s affordable,” Smith said. “That’s really becoming the big conundrum for us.”

Funding levels have been unpredictable for more than a dozen years, Green said. The Department of Defense has had to deal with funding caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act and funding levels held to the previous year’s toplines when Congress passes temporary continuing resolutions instead of actual spending bills at the start of new fiscal years.

Whatever the funding situation in a fiscal year happens to be, the mission doesn’t change and what funding is available is first steered to maintaining readiness and lethality, Green said.

“You’re going to put money toward being ready and being lethal,” Green said. “When you have to take funds from other places, it normally comes from infrastructure sustainment, research and development, the programs that support families. Because we must be prepared to fight. We must do that.”

  • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

    Finally, a shore duty job for sea duty intense ratings, child care. Over worked nukes, boatswain mates etc. who have few shore duty opportunities could man child care centers. Think how calming it would be.

    De-stressing.

    People could get special training…a whole new bureaucracy. Maybe a new rate.

    OR, we could allow private day care operators on base, just like McDonalds, and by providing the facility etc. have a lower cost…oops, we already do that.

    • scotfahey

      respectfully, between watching a child care center, or ET (CTM) doing watch on reactors, I will be in the back of the boat

  • publius_maximus_III

    A problem which can cost far more than the obvious. Who wants somebody flying a predator while worrying about whether he or she can make it to the daycare in time before it closes? A friendly fire incident just waiting to happen.

    Warriors deserve to know the American people have their back. Sounds like we don’t in this case. Needs to be fixed today. Don’t need to throw a lot of money at it, which would just be wasted on fancy new playground equipment. Include a workable percentage of family support funding in every military operation budget, as if it was just as essential as ammunition. It is.

  • HAL 9000

    Robots, AI, and drones don’t need childcare.

  • Ed L

    On base childcare is a trap filled with political correctness police and that calls in The NCIS or CID whenever a toddler comes in with any kind of contusion. Was watching my grandson. He was running (when I told him not to) trip and busted his lip His Parents came home and told me it’s a good thing they didn’t use the base daycare anymore. My daughter said they pulled out of base daycare after her and several other soldiers were accused of abusing their children by one staff member. Luckily hidden surveillance devices showed the person trying to get other staff members into calling CID on the parents of the kids. She was fired (fraudulate statements). They found great childcare in there neighborhood thanks to Nextdoor

    • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

      Typical stuff today, we have seen the enemy and it is us.

  • Rick Pittenger

    Ding, time to spend some more money. Another uniform change? All these changes give a whole new meaning to the word “uniform” doesn’t it?